'Shetland targeted as market for heroin'

CRIME barons from Liverpool have targeted Britain's most northerly island group as a lucrative market for heroin, a court heard yesterday.

George Beardwood, who was caught as he left a ferry in Shetland with a consignment of the drug with a street value of 11,000, was jailed for five years after being found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Robert Weir, the advocate depute, told the court that the seizure of the drugs came against a background of "existing intelligence that senior figures from the Liverpool criminal fraternity had identified and targeted Shetland as a new market for them to exploit with heroin".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Weir said: "It is to be noted that the attempted introduction of diamorphine [heroin] into the Shetland Islands comes on the back of the identification of it as a lucrative market for that drug by dealers in England."

Beardwood, 28, an unemployed father of eight of Liverpool, admitted being concerned in the supply of the Class A drug at Holmsgarth ferry terminal in Lerwick, Shetland, on 27 September this year.

Sentencing him, Lord Brodie said: "The supply of diamorphine is a social ill. It appears to me to be proper to take account as to where the consignment of drugs was to be supplied.

"Shetland was described as a potentially lucrative market. One of the objectives of sentencing is general deterrence, not simply to put you off, but others."

Beardwood, of Bark Road, Litherland, Liverpool, had previously been jailed for three years for drugs offences at Liverpool Crown Court in 2000.

Mr Weir said police were waiting at the harbour to meet the ferry arriving from Aberdeen on the day of the seizure after receiving intelligence that a man was likely to be carrying heroin.

Some of the officers were in uniform and it was noticed that Beardwood momentarily hesitated after he spotted them. He was detained and denied being in possession of drugs, but a search of his holdall found 11 wraps in polythene bags.

He told police he had travelled from Liverpool with the drugs which had been given to him. He had also received instruction on who to meet in Lerwick and pass the heroin on to.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

John Keenan, defence solicitor advocate, said Beardwood had not worked for more than 20 years because of his long-standing addiction and had also built up a significant debt to dealers. He was later persuaded to make the trip to Shetland.

Mr Keenan said: "He appreciates that in many ways heroin has ruined his own life and he appreciates it has a similar effect on others."

But the defence lawyer argued Beardwood had been used as "a pawn" in the drugs trade.

Figures released earlier this year on the Scottish Drug Misuse Database revealed that the number of heroin users in Shetland had doubled between 2005 and 2006.

The Shetland Community Drug Team, which works directly with addicts, has 105 problem users on its books.

In 2005, islanders paid for a 30,000 drugs sniffer dog after Customs officials refused to employ dogs full time.